Seduction and Immortality
Editor's Notebook, March 2001
If you just look, is it cheating?
I’ve been intrigued and fascinated by some of the most seductive road courses in the world: the sensual curves of Watkins Glen; the country charm of Mid-Ohio; the aloofness of Laguna Seca; the grand elegance of Le Mans, and the coarse beauty of Sears Point, to name a few. I admit that I have sampled their wares and have not regretted a moment of my time spent with them. (I try not to even think about the cheap thrills I’ve gotten from local pay-for-play tracks I’ve encountered near home and on business trips.)
But my heart belongs to Thunder Valley, a small portion of the Road America race track in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, USA. Thunder Valley, the sweetest spot on Earth, will always be special to me.
|the middle of a Florida swamp...|
My wife, Susan, and I will test my commitment to the S.S.O.E. as we travel to Sebring for the ALMS race weekend this month. I know what you are saying. How can I compare the dark and varied beauty of a shaded glen in Wisconsin with the flat starkness of a runway in the middle of a Florida swamp?
For me the allure of auto racing is combined of equal portions of beauty, speed, courage, history, and a sense of who you are. A friend just gave me a black and white photograph he had made in 1964, at Meadowdale, a track near Chicago that has long since been abandoned. The photo is of the two Team Cobra cars racing side by side. The immortal elegance of their lines is held forever in this image. The cars are gone; the track is gone; the drivers are gone, but the beauty and speed of the cars and the courage and centered commitment of the drivers remain forever a part of racing.
|the world of racing...|
I know the story of Sebring, the rise from a World War II airfield into prominence as an international center of racing. The men and machines who first raced there are as alive today in the world of racing as when the roar of their engines echoed off the grandstands. Will I find them all still at Sebring, on the track, in the paddock, toasting victory, and blurring the pain of not-victory? I hope so.
In a time of loss, of change, of uncertainty about the future, it is good to remember that, in a sense that is very real for you and for me, racing is immortal. Race cars evolve; race tracks are built and abandoned; and race car drivers are forced to stop racing, either suddenly or through the attrition of age.
All the tracks, all the cars, and all the drivers, though, continue to be a part of the life-affirming world of auto racing. They continue to charm us, to seduce us, to satisfy us and to leave us yearning for the time when we can be together again.